Hope Eludes J&K On Article 35A  

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On Thursday, the National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah said that the J&K leadership owed it to the future generations to safeguard and protect Article 35-A from all overt and covert machinations sponsored by the powers that be. Addressing the convention of the party workers in Budgam, former chief minister said that his party will go to any extent “to protect the state’s honour and political identity”. He also mentioned how his party had filed an intervention plea in the Supreme Court to defend the constitutional provision and slammed the PDP for not doing it. If anything, Omar’s statement yet again underlines the gravity of the legal challenge faced by the state. But it still doesn’t assure us as to the will and the capacity of the state’s political mainstream to defend it. They have so far largely stayed away from the growing public mobilization in favour of its continuance.

That said, Supreme Court’s adjournment of the hearing on the petition has only deepened the anxiety, even though it has momentarily come as a great relief to the majority of the people in J&K who feared the worst. If anything this means the case will go on, so there is little reason for the people of J&K to rejoice. For there is no telling how the court will choose to dispose off the case in future. The court judgements, as warned by the legal experts in the Valley, tend to be unpredictable. But the stakes in case of the Article 35A are too high to be left to perceived capriciousness of the court orders. The implications of an adverse judgement will be horrific.  It confronts the majority of the people of the state with an existential challenge.

Normally issues of such profound and far-reaching import shouldn’t be there for the courts to decide. If the predominant majority of a place doesn’t want a certain law to go as it is tied to the sense of their basic identity, no court should have the authority to alter or dilute it. For example, the courts can’t choose the government of a country on behalf of a people. It is the inalienable right of the people to do so.

Similarly, in case of Kashmir if people of a certain persuasion in the country want a law applicable to the state to go, they can’t impose their will on the state by taking a legal route.  It is tantamount to overriding the aspirations of the people of the state. Only legitimate way to embark on such an exercise is through ascertaining the will of the people.  Let people of J&K decide through a vote whether they want to continue with the Article 35A or give it up. But this will not happen because the forces out to do away with the law know the aspirations of the majority of the people of the state. The best we can hope for is for the wise counsel to prevail in the end. Any tinkering with the constitutional guarantee will wreak havoc and create a more profounder grievance in the state for the ongoing separatist movement to draw on.

 

 

 

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